The history of the Maple Corner Store stretches back to the mid 1800’s when it was known as the Red Shop in Maple Corner, owned by Abdiel Kent. In the early 1900’s it was converted to a mill by local entrepreneur G. Elgin Mann (who apparently kept crocodiles in his bathtub). He added a blacksmith shop, garage, and the Daylight Department Store. Elgin leased this conglomerate to Howard & Esther Lackey in 1925. Longtime residents Elaine and Stanley Fitch remember dancing in the aisles to a record player in between notions and groceries. This tradition would continue in the more modern venue of the Whammy Bar (see below). The Lackey’s Store had a front porch that hosted children of all ages for leisurely chats and enjoying fresh ice-cream. Many a Calais young person found summer and after school employment in the store and the Co-Op. This tradition continues to this day.
In 1945 the store was sold to the Adamant Co-Op. A fire consumed the original structure in 1947, causing the store to temporarily take up residence in the Maple Corner Community Center. The new more modern structure is the result of that blaze. There are many fond memories associated with the Co-Op, of penny candy (that tradition continues), and Montpelier crackers and cheddar cheese. And rather than motoring to Worcester or East Montpelier, gas was also available. Both Co-Ops’ fortunes waxed and waned and in 1973 a decision was made to sell the Maple Corner location to a private owner.
The current Maple Corner Store, owned by community residents Artie & Nancy Toulis, nestles in the heart of Calais surrounded by the Maple Corner Community Center, Curtis Pond, and Maple Corner Schoolhouse. Aside from providing those staples that we all seem to run out of just when needed, sandwiches that highlight local landmarks, fresh bread and pizza, and even homemade dog treats, the store continues to serve as a social crossroads for residents and visitors alike who, after stopping at the post office, find time to chat, warm up by the stove, or perhaps grab a guitar off the wall for an impromptu concert. And who can forget the yearly July 4th parade and Mardi Gras festivities, two community sustaining events for children of all ages!
Most unique is the Whammy Bar, a live music venue that hosts local and regional talent, as well as the famous open mic night. One night each week performers ranging from 10-year-old drummers to seasoned musicians take to the stage. All are greeted with respect and uproarious applause. The Whammy Bar typifies the soul and spirit of the community, where patrons and performers alike are embraced with unconditional positive regard.
While much has changed around us, it is comforting to know that in our tiny community much has stayed the same. Over one hundred years later The Maple Corner Store is still a place to connect with friends and neighbors, share family and community news, make some plans, and continue to knit the fabric of our lives together. The store provides the foundation from which we can nurture our need for connection and interdependence, and for continuing to experience community as extended family.